Montgomery County ineligible to resume elective surgeries, St. Mary’s hospitalization rates unknown


Area residents who have been waiting to undergo elective surgeries or other non-emergency procedures now have some options, but will have to look at hospitals other than St. Mary’s in Amsterdam for the time being. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that his executive order which banned elective surgeries at hospitals in order to retain capacity to handle the spread of the COVID-19 disease will be lifted in 35 counties, but Montgomery County currently remains ineligible. Nearby counties in which hospitals are now eligible include Fulton, Herkimer, Schoharie, and Saratoga.

Source: Screen capture of press conference video

Counties that remain ineligible include Schenectady, Albany, and Otsego.

During a press conference held yesterday, Cuomo outlined the criteria he used to make the decision.  The conditions cited were:

  • At least 30% of hospital beds must be available after elective surgeries resume
  • 30% of intensive care unit beds must be available after elective surgeries resume
  • Hospitalizations and confirmed cases of COVID-19 should show no statistically significant increase
  • The R value for the county, which indicates the average number of people a single person infects with a communicable disease, must be under 1.1

Montgomery County Public Health Director Sara Boerenko said today that she has not received any information from New York State as to which factors disqualified the county from being eligible. She also does not have any information from St. Mary’s Hospital, the county’s only hospital, in regards to their hospitalization levels.

Requests for comment sent by the Mohawk Valley Compass to the hospital’s marketing and communication director on Tuesday and Wednesday have not yet been responded to. (Editor’s Note: St. Mary’s responded with new information on Friday. Read about their statement on why they may have been excluded here.)

Boerenko clarified that the daily updates posted to the county’s Facebook page indicating cumulative cases, recoveries, hospitalizations, and fatalities related to the COVID-19 disease, are reflective of Montgomery County residents regardless of where they happen to be currently located or hospitalized.

“Wherever that patient happens to be hospitalized, we would be monitoring them,” said Boerenko. “We only track Montgomery County residents.”

According to today’s report from the county, there are only 2 county residents hospitalized for COVID-19. However, if St. Mary’s has COVID-19 patients who reside in other counties, those numbers would not be reflected in the county’s report.

Additionally, Boerenko said that she has only reported fatalities once a death certificate has been received. If a Montgomery County resident passes away in another county, it may take some time for that certificate to be sent to her office. Currently, the New York State Department of Health reports that 4 county residents have died due to COVID-19, but only one person has died while located in the county.

During the  press conference, Cuomo said, “On elective surgeries, we had canceled all elective surgeries so we could have increased capacity in the hospitals. When you cancel elective surgeries, hospitals feel a financial pinch because that’s where they make their money is on elective surgeries. So for areas that don’t have a fear of a COVID surge, we’re going to allow elective surgeries to begin. That’s primarily in counties upstate. Again, counties where we’re still worried about a surge in the COVID beds, we’re not going to open it up to elective surgery until we know we’re out of the woods on the COVID virus.”

Several Upstate New York hospitals have announced staff furloughs due to lost revenues caused by the ban on elective surgeries, including facilities in Central New York, Glens Falls, and Albany.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.